Monday, December 31, 2007

These Are People Who Died

in 2007.

In the news business, I know I saw many of these obituaries as they ran. And had that reaction: "He was still alive?" Now I see them again at the end of the year, and I've forgotten reading the obituary in the first place. I forgot they were alive, now I forgot they were dead: Frankie Laine, Charles Nelson Reilly.

Perhaps it's my age: In the middle years of life I'm distant from both the old ones flickering out or the young ones flaring out early. The latter I don't recognize. The former seem to belong to another time: Yvonne De Carlo, Joey Bishop, Kitty Carlisle -- Maurice Papon was still alive?

I never met most of them. Calvert DeForest -- you know him as Larry "Bud" Mellman from the Letterman show. When he first started his schtick there, he came down to Philly to do a comedy club gig. People still weren't sure whether he was authentically befuddled or just a very skilled act. I got a press pass and went down with a girlfriend and sat in the club before opening and chatted with him -- he was as authentic as they come. A cheerful and utterly guile-less man who was a perfect foil for Letterman and his writers.

The one I'll miss most, though, might be Robert Goulet. I never met him, either, though I had seen him do "Camelot" about a jillion years ago, in tow with my parents, at, I think, the old Valley Forge Music Fair.

But at the newspaper where I work, some entertainment reporter had interviewed him years ago (when he rolled through in yet another "Camelot" revival). Goulet was an amiable, self-effacing actor with a great sense of humor about his career. Then, at the end of the year, when the "Christmas cards" piled in to the newsroom from PR flacks and local funeral directors, there was one from Bob & Vera Goulet -- customized, posed, dressed to the nines.

And they kept coming, every year. It got so it wasn't really Christmas until we got the Bob Goulet card. One year, days and weeks passed and we watched, but it didn't come. The staff went home on Dec. 23, dejected. Then the skeleton crew came in the next day to put out the Christmas Day edition, and though there was no official mail pick-up, somehow the card was there. It was a Dickens-worthy moment.

So, Merry Christmas, Bob, wherever you are.

Meanwhile, Bryan Appleyard has the highbrow version:

It was a year in which a certain type of person died — Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Norman Mailer, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jean Baudrillard. These were intellectually pungent, culturally potent individuals, angrily dismissed as often as they were called “great”, “seminal” or “genius”. And with Luciano Pavarotti dead, another type of greatness vanished from the planet.

What? No Larry "Bud" Mellman?